Archive for January 12th, 2011

My first clue that the McIlvaine marker would be interesting came when I passed the side and saw the miter.


Charles Pettit McIlvaine was the Bishop of the Diocese of Ohio, and, though I had never heard of him, a significant figure in history. Born in 1799 to a New Jersey senator and the niece of Pennsylvania’s first governor, he had political connections that combined with his religious devotion to create a significant career in both politics and the Episcopalian church*.


Educated at the College of New Jersey and then the Presbyterian theological seminary in Princeton, he served at several churches before being named chaplain to the United States Senate in 1822, the year before he was ordained as a priest. He would serve as a chaplain again in two years. In addition to being a working priest, he served as chaplain and professor at West Point, professor at the University of the City of New York, and president of Kenyon College, which has a wiki page about him. In 1832, he became the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Ohio, a position he held until his death.

Having earned respect for his work in the church, McIlvaine was often tasked with diplomatic missions on behalf of the United States, particularly to Great Britain. He died in Florence, Italy, in 1873.  Before his body could be conducted home, he was granted the rare of honor of lying in state at Westminster Abbey, commemorated there by a plaque. To date, he is the only United States citizen to be celebrated in this way (excluding honorary U.S. citizen Winston Churchill).  Some of his own writings can be found here and here.

*I am not intimately familiar with the Episcopalian church structure or how clergy move from one position to another. Any errors in description of McIlvaine’s career are my inaccurate understandings or summation of my research, and I apologize.

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